What is RVHD-2 & is my rabbit at risk?

Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) - June 1st to 8th - helps to raise awareness around many important topics relating to the welfare and wellbeing of rabbits. One of the current topics being highlighted is RVHD-2. In this article, Clent Hill’s Veterinary Surgeon Alun Edwards, warns owners about the dangers of the disease and how to protect your pet rabbits from it. 

If your rabbits are not yet vaccinated or are due their annual boosters, you can make an appointment at our Bromsgrove vet practice and get your pets covered.  

Book a rabbit vaccination

What is RVHD-2? 

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (also known as RVHD, RHD, and VHD) is a highly contagious, deadly disease that can affect rabbits of all ages. There are two strains of the disease; RVHD-1 surfaced in the 1980s and RVHD-2 is a more recent development.  


The disease is spread by myriad means - which is why house rabbits are not safe from it - including: 

  • Contact between rabbits and their droppings 
  • In the droppings of birds and insects 
  • Through airborne particles 
  • Contaminated surfaces 
  • Carried on hands, clothing, shoes, tyres and on other pets’ feet  

RVHD symptoms include: 

In some cases, sudden death is the first and only sign that a rabbit had contracted RVHD. Other signs include: 

  • Lethargy 
  • Fever 
  • Respiratory difficulty 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Spasms 
  • Bleeding from the nose or mouth 

Differences between RVHD-1 and RVHD-2: 

RVHD-2 tends to develop slower, and rabbits will show symptoms for longer, which can include weight loss and jaundice from liver disease. The mortality rate seems to be lower for RVHD-2, however, it is still a killer disease. Another difference is the incubation period between the two strains, which is 1-4 days for RVHD-1 and up to 9 days for RVHD-2.  

Treatment & prognosis: 

Alun wants rabbit owners to understand the seriousness of this disease. RVHD is untreatable and almost always fatal – sometimes within hours – as it causes internal bleeding in major organs. Some rabbits may be offered fluid therapy and pain relief, but very few survive. Therefore, it is vital that your pets are protected. 

How to protect your rabbits from RVHD 

Rabbit vaccinations can be given from the age of five weeks, with boosters needed every year for life. The RVHD-1 vaccine is usually combined with one for myxomatosis; there is a separate RVHD-2 vaccine. 

Alun advises that you can further help to protect your pets by; 

  • avoiding contact with other rabbits when you’re out and about 
  • making sure your rabbits are nowhere near any wild cousins 
  • changing clothes after going out and before interacting with your pets 
  • thoroughly washing your hands before and after handling your pets  

You cannot stop insects and many other forms of transmission though, so rabbit vaccinations are a must. Book an appointment with one of our Vets and put your mind at rest. 

If you have any more questions about RVHD-1 or RVHD-2, call us on 01527 889810 and a member of our team will be happy to help. 

Make a rabbit vaccination appointment